Space Shuttle Endeavour is officially a permanent resident of California, though its journey is far from over. NASA’s youngest shuttle was awarded to the California Science Center, but despite its safe journey to Los Angeles, it must still make a 12 mile trek to its final resting place.
The space shuttle was hoisted off of its modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet early on Saturday, one day after it landed at Los Angeles International Airport, reports Space.com.
Cranes carefully lifted the 155,000 pound Endeavour off of the aircraft and held it while the plane backed away and the shuttle’s transporter drove underneath. The shuttle was lowered on to the wheeled platform that will carry it through L.A.’s city streets.
Endeavour will temporarily be housed in a United Airlines hangar while it is prepared for its final transport and display. Technicians will remove an aerodynamic tail cone that was added for its ferry flight from Florida. They will also reposition the shuttle’s replica main engines from their tucked-for-flight position, and also install nozzles on its maneuvering system pods.
Finally, they will enter the crew’s cabin on Endeavour, configuring it for the science center’s curators, and also retrieve thousands of embroidered patches that were flown for the ferry flight, at the center’s request.
NBC News notes that Endeavour’s final trek will begin on October 12. Four computer-controlled transport vehicles will roll the shuttle out of its airport hangar for the journey through the city streets. Museum officials have been working out the logistics of the trek ever since NASA awarded them the Endeavour in April 2011.
Marty Fabrick, who is managing Endeavour’s move for the science center, stated that, “There’s nothing that big that’s been moved through the center of a city before. So there really was no playbook.”
Because the shuttle is too wide and too tall (78 feet by 58 feet) to move easily through L.A.’s streets, the museum has been working with city and utilities personnel to remove obstacles along Endeavour’s chosen route.
This means that some obstructions, like street lights and power lines, will be temporarily removed, but put back shortly after the shuttle passes. Fabrick added that:
“It’s a very choreographed operation. Literally, there will be hundreds if not thousands of people on the route doing all this work while we’re moving Endeavour.”
The shuttle will cruise along at 1-2 miles per hour, arriving at the science center on October 13. Once there, the museum will spend roughly two weeks toughing up the space shuttle and its exhibit. NASA’s youngest space shuttle, which flew 25 missions between 1992 and 2011, will go on display on October 30.